nervously fiddled with the place settings at the small table for two.
She had arranged for lunch to be served on the sun porch – this
comfortable, intimate setting would be more conducive to a heart-to-heart
with Helen than the formal dining room.
After the number of dinner parties, large galas, and private
meetings she had arranged in her lifetime, it was completely ridiculous
that a simple lunch with her best friend should make her so nervous.
Yet, here she was, anxious and worried.
vague feeling of apprehension overcame her.
Somehow, Maddie knew this meeting with Helen was going to create
more problems than it solved. Maybe
it’s not that problems will be created, it’s just that I’ll know
they’re there. She obstinately pushed that thought away.
After all, that was the entire point of this luncheon – to know
what was going on.
showed Helen into the room and left again.
Helen gave Maddie a vague smile of greeting before sitting down.
Maddie sat beside her and watched her closely. Helen anxiously twisted the strap of her purse, looking
everywhere except at her hostess. After
several long minutes of silent observation, Maddie decided to throw tact
and grace straight out the window.
is enough, Helen,” she said sternly.
“You’ve been avoiding me for weeks, and I had to twist your arm
to get you to come to lunch today. What
is your problem?”
jumped in surprise at Maddie’s harsh tone.
Turning startled blue eyes on her friend, she gaped at the
shockingly forthright woman. “I…
I don’t know… what you’re talking about,” she stammered.
arched one sculptured brow and narrowed her eyes.
Stiffly, she queried, “Would you like to hear about life at
Crabapple Farm from your daughter’s point of view, or would you care to
share your side of the story?”
her jaw, Helen turned away. The
soft, gentle visage that was so familiar to everyone was nowhere in sight.
Instead, her face was a forbidding mask, cold and emotionless.
her own angry glare, Maddie sat back in her chair, folded her arms over
her chest, crossed her legs, and began tapping her foot on the floor.
“For weeks, I have suspected something was bothering you.
AS YOUR FRIEND, I tried talking to you, asking questions, offering
to listen. You clammed up and
started avoiding me. I
assumed you just didn’t want to talk about it.
Since my history is all about needing support rather than
giving it, I figured that you just didn’t feel I was the right person to
talk to. I was a little hurt,
but I let it go.
it’s not about me or my ability to be a friend anymore.
In the last seven days, I have had seven different people ask for
my help in dealing with you. Seven.
The only Bob-White who didn’t was Jim, and that’s only because
he was assigned to keep Trixie busy.
That seven includes ALL FOUR of your children.
Even Bobby came to talk to me after his riding lesson the
was on a roll now. She had
started out calmly, but the more she talked, the more agitated she got.
Her normally soft voice was strong and forceful, projecting plenty
of hurt and anger. There was
no tact or sympathy to be had today.
I am not known for being the sympathetic one.
I am not known for being the good listener.
I am not known for being the shoulder to cry on.
And, unless it involves a fundraiser or shopping, I am not known as
the one who can fix things. Yet,
they all came to me.
am excited to be trusted with their problems.
I am eager to help. But
I am also shocked to be asked and, quite frankly, worried about how
desperate they must be if they are resorting to asking for my help.
our children reach that level of desperation, I am not going to sit back
and hire someone to fix the problem.
This time, I will get my hands as dirty as it takes.
Now start talking!”
Maddie’s long-winded tirade, the silence was deafening.
Maddie waited impatiently, while Helen shifted nervously in her
seat. Celia came in with a
rolling cart laden with their lunch dishes.
Maddie indicated with a curt nod to just leave it by the table.
Feeling the tension that could be cut with a knife, Celia quickly
pushed the cart to the indicated place and beat a hasty retreat.
they were alone again, Helen quietly began to speak.
She twisted her hands together in her lap, still refusing to look
at Maddie, and said, “I don’t care how perfect your life is, how rich
or poor you are, how many or few people are in your house, how busy or not
you are, you have complaints. Everyone
does. Even the happiest
person sees something every day that is not the way they’d like it to
if you’re a happy person, you don’t let it bother you.
If you have a good life, you look at your blessings and ignore the
flaws. If most things go
well, you shrug off the ones that don’t.
however, something happens that focuses your attention on all the little
problem details. It
highlights the flaws. It
shadows the blessings. It
aggravates and exacerbates every imperfection.”
fell silent. Her eyes
wandered to the lunch tray, and she began fussing.
She started fixing plates for the two of them, because feeding
people had always helped her deal with problems.
Maddie knew this about her friend, so she remained still, waiting
to hear what else Helen would say. When
the plates were piled high in front of them, Helen picked up her fork and
pushed the food around her plate. Finally,
she began to speak again, almost casually, still refusing to look at
are little things. Sometimes,
I hate that my kids are so independent, because I feel like they don’t
need me any more. I’ve
always had moments where I’m a little jealous of Peter’s attention to
Trixie; no other female should have his adoration.
And I miss Brian.” She
these things have always been just little twinges that passed quickly.
Peter is exactly how I always wanted the father of my children to
be. He treats Trixie how I
always wished my father would have treated me.
My children are independent because that’s how I raised them, and
I’m very proud of them.” She
straightened up and nodded determinedly.
“I want them to be that way.”
face softened. “Brian is
starting on his very ambitious educational plans.
He got a full scholarship to a good school.
I’m extremely proud of my boy, and I’m happy for him.
normally, the twinge of unhappiness will pass quickly.
It’s not worth it – I have a great life.”
Helen smiled softly. Then
her face crumbled, and she stared at the multitude of colors reflected by
the crystal water glass in front of her.
her big blue eyes finally looked up at her friend, they were filled with
tears and terror. Her
shoulders shook, and her voice quivered.
“Maddie… I’m just so scared!”
by this admission, Maddie momentarily froze.
Then she hastily moved her chair closer and put her arm around the
suddenly fragile-looking woman. Helen
laid her head on her friend’s shoulder and let the tears flow. Maddie gently asked, “Afraid of what, sweetie?”
answer was a ragged whisper, barely audible.
“She’s going to die.”
Maddie jumped back and grabbed Helen by the shoulders.
Focusing on the pain etched in the face before her, she exclaimed,
“What the hell are you talking about?”
closed her eyes wearily. “I
don’t know. I think I’m losing my mind.”
relaxed her grip and sat back. Frowning,
she said firmly, “Helen, you’re going to have to give me more to work
with than that.”
reached for her purse to retrieve a tissue.
Wiping her eyes, she sniffled.
“You’re just going to think I’m crazy. I
think I’m crazy. How can I
expect anyone else to understand?”
golden curls, so very like her daughter’s, flopped in front of her eyes.
Maddie gently brushed them back.
“Sweetie, what’s making you crazy is holding it all in.
You’ve got to talk to somebody.
The stress you’re putting yourself under is destroying
fist balled around the tissue, and she closed her eyes tightly, an
agonized expression settling onto her face.
“I’ve been awful to her, Maddie.
I go into these rages, and I lash out at poor Trixie.
A part of me is watching, wondering who the lunatic is that’s
daring to hurt my baby. But
it’s me! How can I do that to her?”
leaned forward, elbows on the table, and held her head in her hands.
“And poor Peter! He’s
simply trying to be rational, trying to be a calming influence to still
the raging seas. And all he
gets for his efforts is grief from me.
I’m sure he’s ready to have me locked up.
And Mart and Bobby never know what to expect.
If it’s just them, I’m just Moms.
I’m normal; we have normal conversations.
But, as soon as Trixie enters the room, off I go again.”
looked up, blue eyes pleading for help.
With a shudder, she said, “I’ve got to get out of this awful
place I’m in!”
regarded her friend thoughtfully. She
placed her arm comfortingly around Helen’s shoulder again.
She reassured her softly. “I’ll
do whatever I can to help you. But
I need you to explain more. What
did you mean by ‘she’s going to die’?”
coursing down her face, Helen struggled to convey her fears.
“It all started the night she was shot…
sat by her daughter’s bedside, softly patting the golden curls.
Trixie looked so peaceful lying there, one would think she was
simply asleep, dreaming pleasant dreams.
But then Helen glanced at the IV and the cast on Trixie’s arm,
and remembered the horrific events of the morning.
all the times Trixie had been kidnapped, held at gunpoint, and threatened
any number of other ways, this was the first time she’d
really been hurt. They should
be grateful for that. But she
was only fifteen. How many
more times would she be hurt in the future?
Helen heard a voice speaking to her.
She looked around and listened.
It wasn’t audible; it was more like a voice in her head.
But it wasn’t her own voice, like she would hear if she were
talking to herself. It was
different: strong, powerful, insistent.
And it was speaking directly to her.
the message scared the hell out of her.
is just the beginning. The worst is yet to come.”
drew in another ragged breath before continuing. “At first, I just
shrugged it off. I chalked it
up to my over-active imagination, wondering what sort of other trouble
Trixie will get herself into next. But
then the dreams started…” She
stopped, choking on her fear.
are the dreams about?” Maddie prodded.
ran a trembling hand through her unruly curls.
With a shaky, uneven voice, she answered, “They’re jumbled and
disjointed. They don’t make
any sense. But they always
involve hospitals and tubes and monitors.
There are doctors quoting survival rates.
Then someone yells ‘We’re losing her!’
That’s where I always wake up.”
floundered, trying to make her friend understand.
“It’s not the images, or the words.
It’s the feelings. I
am completely overcome by a crushing, mind-numbing fear.
I wake up terrified, so much I can hardly breathe.
It’s horrible. I’m
afraid to sleep at night.” She
offered a wan, rueful smile. “Of
course, that just makes me even more irritable during the day.
worst part is the way the dreams haunt me when I’m awake.
I’ll be fine... then
Trixie will walk into the room, and these tidal waves of fear crash over
me and strangle me. I hate
being afraid.” She snorted. “Trixie comes by that honestly, you know.
Anyway, then I get mad about being afraid.
And, since it’s all somehow connected to Trixie, I lash out at
sat quietly, struggling to return her breathing to normal.
Maddie looked at her sympathetically and rubbed her back, while her
mind raced, trying to think of some way to help Helen.
to look at Maddie, Helen shrugged helplessly.
Her voice low and raw, she finished, “I just don’t want to be
soft hazel eyes flickered with hesitation as she regarded the other woman.
“Can I offer a suggestion you won’t like?”
offered a tremulous smile. “At
this point, any suggestion would be helpful.”
blue eyes were startled for a brief moment.
Then they lightened with a small spark of hope.
“Talking to you is helping.
Talking to a professional can’t hurt.”
nodded decisively and became all business.
“Fine. I have a
friend from college who is a wonderful therapist in the City.
I will make you an appointment, and I’ll take you.
We’ll just say you need a girls’ day out, and we’ll add some
shopping or get our nails done or something.”
She stood briskly. “I’ll
go make the call right now, and then we’ll eat.”
Maddie left the room, Helen sat back in her chair and leaned her head
back. She was exhausted. But,
for the first time in weeks, she felt the embers of hope come alive.